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Kennedy Canta!

| Fri Feb. 22, 2008 12:06 PM EST

This is half awesome and half embarrassing.

If I work for Kennedy, I'm avoiding my email today.

Update: Wow, the Obama folks are really bumping up their Hispanic outreach. See the Viva Obama video after the jump.

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Debate's Final Moment - Transformative?

| Fri Feb. 22, 2008 11:24 AM EST

The Clinton campaign is really pushing the final bit of yesterday's debate (coverage of the full debate here) as some kind of transformative moment. Seconds after the debate ended, Clinton's communications director Howard Wolfson sent out a short email saying this:

What we saw in the final moments in that debate is why Hillary Clinton is the next President of the United States. Her strength, her life experience, her compassion. She's tested and ready. It was the moment she retook the reins of this race and showed women and men why she is the best choice.

Just after midnight, the campaign sent out video of the moment. It's below. And today's Morning HUBdate (an email sent daily to supporters) began, "If You Watch One Thing Today: In the final moments of last night's debate, Hillary demonstrated her strength, life experience and compassion."

But here's the thing. That handshake was seen by some in the media last night as a valedictory. It was a composed, graceful moment that humanized Clinton (and Obama) and showed that beneath their politicians' veneers, they are just fundamentally decent human beings. But the press saw the beginning of the end for Clinton. And indeed, it could be seen as Clinton laying the groundwork for a graceful exit. Keith Olbermann speculated that it was a capitulation, a statement that she is ready to be a VP.

I don't think it was a capitulation, but I do think it was a concession in some way that she is tired of fighting and attacking, especially because her attacks on Obama haven't been working and the race has slipped away from her. It was also an acknowledgment of the fatigue that the campaign season puts a person under.

I wonder if the campaign realized that that the closing moment was dangerous, so they immediately leapt to spin it to their advantage. And because everyone was focusing on that handshake, they included the minute or two beforehand in which Clinton talked about injured vets.

Draw your own conclusions. As a nation, we've already spent fifteen years psychoanalyzing the Clintons; looks like we're not done yet.

Dems Debate: No Shoot-out in Texas, as Clinton Halfheartedly Goes After Obama

| Fri Feb. 22, 2008 12:33 AM EST

obama-clinton250x200.jpg Asked if Barrack Obama was ready to be commander in chief, Hillary Clinton ducked the question. When Obama suggested she is not as willing as he is to confront the special interests of Washington, she did not engage. Offered the chance to blast Obama for vowing to meet with the dictatorial leaders of North Korea and Iran in his first year as president, she took a pass. When Clinton did go on the attack at Thursday night's debate in Austin, Texas, she chose to focus on Obama's use of several speech lines borrowed (or plagiarized, according to the Clinton camp) from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a supporter of Obama. That was, she said, "not change you can believe in; it's change you can Xerox."

With the zinger, Clinton was trying to reinforce one of her campaign's themes: I offer solutions; he offers words. But during this portion of the debate, Obama came on strong. He brushed aside the plagiarism accusation as part of the "silly season in politics," and noted that the fine words of his eloquent speeches convey not only hope and inspiration but also support proposals for tuition tax credits for college, tax relief for working families, and military disengagement in Iraq. And Obama explained that inspiration is essential because "if we can't inspire the American people to get involved in their government," Washington will continue to be a city of gridlock dominated by corporate lobbyists. Clinton didn't have much of a reply to that. She did continue stick to her my-actions-speak-louder-than-his-words assault. But there was no new punch to this now routine line, and she appeared to gain no new ground in the battle between (his) hope and (her) experience.

Which means the debate was no game changer. Obama, who has not been his best at debates earlier in the campaign, performed well in Austin before a pumped-up crowd that cheered on both candidates. (Kudos to CNN for not shushing the candidates' supporters.) Clinton performed well, too, especially when it came to demonstrating her command of policy details and ticking off her legislative accomplishments. But at this point, she needs to do better than well and clobber Obama, and that did not happen. A recent poll in Texas--which holds its primary on March 4--shows the race between the two a statistical dead heat. That is, Obama, if the polls are to be believed, is catching her in the crucial state. And polls in Ohio--the other big prize on March 4--show Obama nipping at a still-significant Clinton lead. But there's still plenty of time for him to close in on her in the Buckeye State.

Maybe Hitchens Is Right and God Isn't So Great

| Thu Feb. 21, 2008 10:32 PM EST

Only yesterday I blogged about the American Christian right ordering (white) Europeans to have more babies, repeal liberal divorce, same sex marriage, and abortion laws lest the Muslim hordes over run them. Mere coincidence, the overlap with their theocratic preferences.

Today, we happen upon yet another example — since we were running low — of the dangerous centrality to male privilege of retaining control over women's bodies, and more importantly, their choices, so as to hold onto power. Fascinating, the lengths to which religious fervor and hegemony go to perpetuate and expand themselves despite the teachings of its holy books; Muslims and Christians in Africa (Nigeria here) are slaughtering each other in the name of religion. Well, it's either that or they're killing each other over the right to exercise immoral power over the designated Other and religion is a good a way as any to identify your inferior. God forbid they should try peaceful co-existence or maybe just focus on their own spiritual uplift. One would think that living up to either the Messiah's or the Prophet's requirements might keep one a little too busy to be looking for qc'ing others.

What's most fascinating, however, is how the battle over who gets stuck on the business end of apartheid — Christians have control now and keep the Muslims second class citizens — quickly became about who has access to which women. Let's just say that's not up to the women in question. No doubt, though, the lure of fighting the designated infidel by withholding their wombs, and their all important love, will prove seductive to many of the Christian women called on to do their duty (i.e. love only your neighbor Christian neighbors). The others will just keep bringing it back home to the Christian Papa to stay alive. Odd, how 'women's work' is only worth noticing when in danger of being performed for someone else.

As the Muslims, galvanized by the 1980s Iranian revolution and who tend to be successful merchants, inter-married with "their" women, the Christian overlords had to step in to set the women straight. Turns out that the "ladies" they're so desperate to keep as to engage in gruesome rampages, "are stupid and attracted to money....Believing that the Muslims were trying to wipe out Christians by converting them through marriage...[the elders] decided to punish the women. "If a woman gets caught with a Muslim man," Sunday said, "she must be forcibly brought back." Rhymes with "harsh interrogation techniques." "Gets caught" not "chooses."

This is bad. Very bad. It's the cover and it's the Atlantic, so it's a hefty, illuminating and worrying read. You shouldn't miss it. Here's the intro:

Fewer Guns, Not More 'Heroes'

| Thu Feb. 21, 2008 10:05 PM EST

In the wake of the latest college shootings, Utah's public college students are packing heat. I feel much safer now.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (CNN) -- The senior at the University of Utah gets dressed and then decides which gun is easiest to conceal under his clothes.
If he's wearing a T-shirt, he'll take a smaller, low-profile gun to class. If he's wearing a coat, he may carry a different weapon, he said.
He started carrying a gun to class after the massacre at Virginia Tech, but the student says he's not part of the problem of campus shootings and could instead be part of a solution.

Utah, according to CNN, is the only state which allows concealed-carry at all public colleges as well as other places around the state. "However, [a university administrator] said the regents are opposing a legislative proposal to allow people with concealed weapons permits to have the weapons visible in public. "We are worried that it may affect their [students' and teachers'] willingness or desire to go to or teach a class on campus," she said.

You don't say?

Where once you had to worry that the slacker next to you might be copying your answers or calling you a tramp on JuicyCampus.com, now you have to worry that he might think that that bulge in your own pocket just might not mean you're glad to see him. I teach at a university - hell, I live in America - and I worry about mall and campus violence and the nice, crowded targets we represent. Call me crazy, but I don't feel any better thinking someone in the room believes he's got the Die Hard focus to avoid all the fleeing bodies and the pandemonium and take out only the deranged shooter who started it all. All, of course, without breaking a sweat or wasting a bullet. Or a classmate. They've probably got their 'just kicked your ass,' toss-off movie one-liner ready — "hasta la vista, baby" and the like.

Maybe this isn't really so much about the 2nd Amendment as some folks' need to believe that they're cowboy cool, all Clint Eastwood, and they're going to NYPD Blue the perp right into the back of a squad car. Then get the keys to the city, a trip to the White House, a movie deal, the blonde...

A Congressional Race That (Almost) Sums Up Northern California

| Thu Feb. 21, 2008 10:04 PM EST

Californians, and especially San Franciscans, have a knack for embracing politicians who are larger than life. We've elected Jerry Brown ("Governor Moonbeam"), veteran state Senator John Burton (the flamboyant foul-mouth), and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown ("Slick Willie"), to name a few. Now we've got the Governator in Sacramento and Gavin the Playboy in City Hall. And there are always mayoral also-rans such as Cindy Sheehan, the peace mom, and Josh Wolf, the jailed vlogger. These politicos are as much policy wonks as cultural figures who embody the fears, dreams and excesses of their times--a reflection of the fact that politics and culture are unusually conjoined in the Golden State.

Even in light of this history, voters should brace themselves for the upcoming election to replace the recently deceased Congressman Tom Lantos. It's a race that simultaneously evokes San Francisco's pre-hippie past, touches upon the rise and decay of the counterculture, and speaks to an uncertain future in which technology, political idealism, and ego form a volatile mix. It could be a wild ride. I'll explain after the jump.

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Killing Others Makes Us Sicker

| Thu Feb. 21, 2008 8:52 PM EST

wildlife_zoonoses_hotspots_500.jpg

Credit: Nature

Oops. More of those unforeseen consequences. Including the first scientific evidence that deadly emerging diseases have risen steeply across the world. Why? Because of human expansion into shrinking pockets of biodiversity and resulting contacts with wildlife (think poor countries). Plus, the bonus factor (think rich countries), new diseases arising from overuse of antibiotics, centralized food processing, and other technologies, nursing other outbreaks, like multidrug-resistant pathogen strains. The study appears in the Feb. 21 issue of the scientific journal Nature.

In the new study, researchers from four institutions analyzed 335 emerging diseases from 1940 to 2004, then converted the results into maps correlated with human population density, population changes, latitude, rainfall and wildlife biodiversity. Disease emergences have quadrupled in 50 years. Sixty percent travelled from animals to humans, most from wild creatures. Hot spots on the map span sub-Saharan Africa, India, and China, with smaller spots in Europe, North America, and South America. Translated: everywhere.

Still waiting for human intelligence to overrule human appetite.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Gunmaker Ends Partnership With Blackwater

| Thu Feb. 21, 2008 6:22 PM EST

Even as FBI agents return to Baghdad to revisit the scene of Blackwater's September 16 shooting that killed 17 Iraqi civilians and wounded 24 more, the embattled private security firm continues to lose friends closer to home. According to UPI, German gun manufacturer Heckler-and-Koch, which formed a "strategic partnership" with Blackwater in August 2006, has announced an end to its association with the company:

Heckler-and-Koch said it would end its relationship in the wake of a German news report that Blackwater employees used its machine guns in Iraq and Afghanistan and that the two companies had a "strategic partnership."
Deutsche Welle said Tuesday that the revelations stirred criticism among some German politicians who said they were aghast at Blackwater's controversial role in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It is scandalous and unacceptable that a German arms company cooperates with such a lawless mercenary troop," declared Green Party lawmaker Hans Christian Strobele.

Lawless mercenary troop? That's exactly the kind of talk that makes Erik Prince's skin crawl. But it's also language that carries considerable political weight these days, especially given the high number of (allegedly) unlawful killings in Iraq that have involved Blackwater operators.

The end of the Blackwater/Heckler-and-Koch partnership means that paying clients will no longer be able to avail themselves of the "Blackwater HK International Training Services" program, which offered classes like H&K Rifle Operator, H&K Pistol Operator, and H&K SMG (submachine gun) Operator.

A New Smear Email: Obama Gave an Anti-Israel Speech at a Black Church

| Thu Feb. 21, 2008 6:06 PM EST

barack-obama-american-flag250x200.jpg

Barack Obama is a secret Muslim who refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance. During the Democratic primary campaign, the junior senator from Illinois has been hit repeatedly by virulent viral emails pushing false claims like these. The latest: Obama, due to his Muslim background, secretly favors Palestinians over Israelis.

An unsourced email being disseminated claims that "someone taped former Muslim Barack HUSSEIN Obama at a black church when he was in South Carolina" and that Obama said:

It's clear that we give too much money to Israel. [cheers] Why... do you know that every American gives approx .20 cents A DAY to Israel? [jeers] We keep hearing how tough the Israelis are... how great an 'ally' they are... --but what if we gave the SAME AMOUNT of money we gave THEM to the poor Palestinians--I bet THAT would bring them finally to the table. We could have a two-state solution... a two-state solution--just like former President Carter outlined in his latest book. We can't have peace in the Middle East until we solve that problem down in Palestine. George Bush should have thought about that before he went into Iraq...[etc.]

The email goes on to note that Obama sounds "a GREAT DEAL like Malcolm X." It asks, "Instead of the 'Manchurian Candidate,' is Obama the secret 'Farrakan Candidate'"? It then seeks to explain his purported anti-Israel bias:

Will Barrack's [sic] Muslim roots cause him to favor the Palestinians against Israel?

McCain Campaign Uses Lobbyist to Strike Back at Iseman Scandal

| Thu Feb. 21, 2008 4:14 PM EST

A very interesting email from the McCain campaign:

Well, here we go. We could expect attacks were coming; as soon as John McCain appeared to be locking up the Republican nomination, the liberal establishment and their allies at the New York Times have gone on the attack. Today's front-page New York Times story is particularly disgusting — an un-sourced hit-and-run smear campaign designed to distract from the issues at stake in this election. With John McCain leading a number of general-election polls against Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the New York Times knew the time to attack was now, and they did. We will not allow their scurrilous attack against a great American hero to stand.
The New York Times — the newspaper that gave MoveOn.org a sweetheart deal to run advertisements attacking General Petraeus — has shown once again that it cannot exercise good journalistic judgment when it comes to dealing with a conservative Republican....
John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has led the charge to limit the money and influence of the special interests in politics and stomp out corruption. His life and his record prove just how preposterous the smear by the New York Times really is...

The problem? The writer of this email, defending John McCain from accusations of being too close to a lobbyist, is McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis, a former lobbyist himself.

Update: Oh, and by the way — even though the McCain campaign is going to war with the New York Times, it is still touting its recent NYT endorsement on its website.